Riho Sawaki and Yuzu Tsutae’s Sukisyo!

You may notice that the title of this DVD is spelled “Sukisho” on the cover: these are alternate transliterations of the title, which is actually pronounced somewhere in between the two spellings: it’s another one of those sounds that Japanese has and English doesn’t. And there’s an alternate title, Suki na Mono wa Suki Dakara Shōganai!, that translates roughly as “I like what I like, so deal with it”, which should give you a good idea of the tone of this Japanese TV series.

High school student Sora Hashiba managed somehow to fall out of a fourth-floor window and survive. In fact, his injuries were fairly minor, except he doesn’t remember the fall or much of anything before that. When he returns to the dorm, he discovers that he has a new roommate, Sunao Fujimori. They don’t hit it off. Things get even worse the first night, when Sora is awakened from sleep by Sunao kissing him and addressing him as “Yoru”, identifying himself as “Ran.” In the morning, Sunao denies the whole thing. Sora’s classmate and childhood friend, Honjou Matsuri, tells him that Nao is another childhood friend, but Sora doesn’t remember him at all. Nao eventually tells Sora that Yoru and Ran are alternate personalities who can take over their bodies; they also happen to be lovers, which causes Sora to have something of a fit — this is not what he has in mind.

The driving mechanism of the first part of the series is a scheme that Matsuri comes up with: Sora and Nao will be the “School Do-It-All Team,” taking care of certain tasks — such as delivering chocolates on Valentine’s Day — for their classmates — or anyone else who can pay the fee. It’s episodic and sometimes hysterically funny — but also sometimes not so much.

After about episode 6, however, the focus shifts to the recovery of Sora’s past, and the roles played in it by Nao, Kai Nanami, the school medic, and Shinichiro Minato, the math teacher (the latter of whom live quite comfortably together as lovers and act as surrogate parents for Sora, who even calls Minato “Nii-chan” (Big Brother) — outside of class.) There are intimations of all of this from the very beginning — Sora has flashbacks in episode 1 — but they start to come together with some fairly scary characters, including the required mad scientist, Prof. Aizawa, who has an unexpected relationship with one of the students at the school.

Given the disparate elements, this anime can probably be classified as “zany,” although there is certainly a dark side. In fact, it’s very dark — there are some fairly intense scenes later on in the series, and a couple of places where I was on the edge of my seat. It seems a characteristic of Japanese stories — at least in most of the manga and anime that I’ve experienced — to combine sometimes nearly slapstick comedy with high drama. The strange thing is that they usually pull it off, at least they certainly did here.

There is a final episode, after all the rescues have been accomplished, the villain has gotten his due, and the dust has settled, in which the boys, along with Nanami and Minato and several other secondary but important characters (including three adorable children who served as a sort of mini-“Do-It-All Team” and cheering section) all go off to an onsen (hot spring resort) for a holiday. It is just as zany as the first part of the series, but provides the opportunity for a couple of romantic interludes, with the added attraction of a special hot spring that can make wishes come true. But you’d better be pretty careful what you wish for.

The graphic style is what I tend to refer to as “high shoujo” — “shoujo” is manga for girls and is fairly stylized, especially faces, which are rendered with large eyes and small noses and mouths, extravagant hair, and a bishounen body type: slim, long-legged, and somewhat androgynous. This one has what I’ve come to call a “cotton-candy aesthetic” — Sora has blue, spiked hair, Nao’s is pink and worn in a long ponytail, and Matsuri’s is yellow — not blond, yellow. Other characters have hair of a normal color, either black or brown. And somehow it all works, and works very well.

The production values are very high, as I’ve come to expect from these series, mostly done for Japanese TV. My one objection is to the title music, which doesn’t really fit the later episodes — it’s too sprightly and light, although the incidental music does support the drama of the narrative.

This one is fun, it’s funny (usually), the drama is absorbing, and you really start to care about Sora and Nao, especially as the situation becomes more and more desperate. And Episode 13 is just wacky and cute enough to make a perfect denouement.

(Media Blasters, 2010)

About Robert Tilendis

Robert M. Tilendis lives a deceptively quiet life. He has made money as a dishwasher, errand boy, legal librarian, arts administrator, shipping expert, free-lance writer and editor, and probably a few other things he’s tried very hard to forget about. He has also been a student of history, art, theater, psychology, ceramics, and dance. Through it all, he has been an artist and poet, just to provide a little stability in his life. Along about January of every year, he wonders why he still lives someplace as mundane as Chicago; it must be that he likes it there.

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